Interviewing to manage threats: exploring the effects of interview style on information gain and threateners’ counter-interview strategies

Renate Geurts, Karl Ask, Pär Anders Granhag, Aldert Vrij

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Abstract

There is consensus about the importance to engage with, and if possible interview, individuals who threaten to cause harm. However, there exists little research on how to conduct such interviews. This article contributes with an experimental approach on threat management interviewing. We explored what types of counter-interview strategies threateners employ, and we tested the efficacy of two common interview styles (direct interviewing vs. rapport-based interviewing). Participants (N = 120) were interviewed about a nonviolent threat they had made (to press charges against their former employer) and reported what strategies they had used during the interview. No differences were found between the interview protocols for threat management outcomes (i.e., information gain, use of counter-interview strategies, and willingness to discuss or enact the threat). However, the study showed how threateners struck a deliberate balance between proving their stand and disguising implementation details. Critically, individuals with more serious intentions to enact the threat were more inclined to hide information from the interviewer. We argue that it is vital for threat management interviewers to (a) understand what behaviors can be expected from the interviewee, and (b) learn about interview methods that can steer these behaviors toward information gain (which is beneficial to threat assessment) and toward de-escalation (which is the purpose of threat management). 
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-204
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Threat Assessment and Management
Volume5
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

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